Canadian Mining Journal

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ENVIRONMENT: New powder could help cut CO2 emissions



Antiquated technology such as Vale’s Sudbury Superstack are coming down as researchers create state-of-the-art solutions to capture carbon. (Image: Wikipedia)

WATERLOO, Ont. – Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, and teams from universities in China have created a powder that could trap twice the amount of carbon dioxide than conventional materials.

The new material is an advanced carbon powder. It is created using heat and salt to extract a black carbon powder from plant materials. The size and number of pores in the carbon spheres can be manipulated during manufacture to maximize the adsorption of carbon dioxide. Since carbon is environmentally friendly and inexpensive, it could be an excellent option to capture carbon dioxide before it leaves the smokestack of a fossil fuel-burning plant.

Once the powder is saturated with carbon dioxide, it can be transported to underground storage sites, thus keeping the gas out of the atmosphere.

“This will be more and more important in the future,” Chen said. “We have to find ways to deal with all the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels.”

A paper on the carbon dioxide capture work, “In-situ ion-activated carbon nanospheres with tunable ultramicroporosity for superior CO2 capture,” appears in the journal Carbon.

Professor Chen can be reached at zhwchen@uwaterloo.ca or 519-888-4567 ext. 38664.